Solar Electric Car: Just How Good are they anyway?
When I heard about these races I knew that there had to be optimism for a solar powered car as the whole point in racing is improving what you have and working long and hard to get an edge over the competition. I think that thatís the kind of thing that leads to breakthroughs, so thereís plenty of hope for the future of solar electric cars!
Can I buy one?
There arenít any purely solar powered cars out there to buy commercially at the moment. Heaps are being made but itís more of a DIY electric car job for enthusiasts.
Venturi have solar panels on their Astrolab and Eclectic cars. The Astrolab is supposed to be a sports car and the eclectic is more of a golfcart than a car but its great that you can get it in the first place! They both however aren't available to buy yet.
I do know that you can get a solar panel for your Zap Xebra as an extra but thatís only to add a small bit of range and it canít rely fully on it. Theyíll also be available on the new Toyota Prius, but only to power the air conditioning!
Is the range good enough?
At the moment itís nowhere near where it needs to be. It could be used as an add-on to your electric car to get a bit more range but unless youíre a die-hard solar power fanatic you probably wonít be driving a fully solar powered car anytime soon. One thing I thought was interesting was the idea of having solar panels at home and charging from that.
Are they fast?
The ones designed for racing can travel faster than 60 mph (lets be honest it's not a 120mph electric car that would burn up a track but it's pretty good for solar power) but the solar panels on those cars cost so much youíd probably need to put a second mortgage on your house! Most fully solar vehicles are pretty slow as the amount of energy they get isnít the greatest at the moment, which is part of the reason that theyíre so slick and strange looking so that they can minimise the wind resistance.
Well the main reason would be technically free completely clean energy from the sun! You could argue that the manufacture of the solar cells damages the environment but thatís nowhere near as much as what a petrol car does in its lifetime and they are working on improving it too. Even just having a solar panel on your electric car to give it a small boost is one of the great advantages of electric car that will definitely pay you back over time so why not?
I think a great thing for the future from what Iíve researched would be to have solar panels on the roofs of buildings in towns and houses all over the country and have your electric car charge from that energy. This way you wonít have to deal with the weight or air resistance of a solar panel and it can be placed to get the best energy from the sun possible.
Otherwise solar powered cars are still pretty much a DIY job but who knows what breakthroughs are around the corner!
If you want to know more about solar energy I would really recommend visiting green-planet-solar-energy.com. I found it very helpful and made learning the technical bits much easier.
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